Good news everyone, a report by the Working Poor Families Project indicates that two-thirds of working families are able to pay for basic necessities without a struggle, and 63% of the nation’s children lived in those families in 2011. Can I get a U and an S and an A? USA! USA!
Oh, you have astutely noticed that this means 1/3 of working families DO struggle to pay for basic necessities, and that 37% of the nation’s children live in those families, did you? Aren’t you smart. That’s fine, not to worry, we have a solution to this problem, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and Richard Vedder, an economist for the American Enterprise Institute! Ready? OK here it is: these poor families should WORK HARDER. Also they should not be given food stamps, Pell grants, or unemployment insurance. Seriously, this is his actual solution. Did we mention he is a Professor of economics at Ohio University, a public school where he is free to opine on cutting the government spending that benefits OTHER people while he himself suckles contentedly from the government’s teat? Well, we guess we have now.
From the mid-17th century to the late 20th century, the American economy grew roughly 3.5% a year. That growth rate has since declined significantly. When the final figures are in for 2012, the annual rate of real output growth for the first dozen years of this century is likely to be about 1.81%.
What accounts for the slowdown? An important part of the answer is simple: Americans aren’t working as much today. And this trend reflects more than the recession and sluggish economy of the past few years.
Here is the thing: none of this is true. At all. Also, in the mid-17th century, the American economy was pre-modern and pre-industrial, and also, a large portion of the labor force were slaves. So does it make sense to compare the economy of 1650 to the economy of 2012? No, it does not. But let’s say for the sake of argument that we are going to do so, for funsies! Would it be fair to conclude that Americans aren’t working as much? Well, depends on WHICH Americans we are comparing! The white upper class land-owning, slave-holding Americans of the mid-17th century through the mid 19th century probably still are working just as hard as their present day counterparts (i.e., not at all). And OK, sure, those of us who work three part time jobs and barely scrape by probably do not work as hard as slaves, you got us there, touché. But for the most part, this comparison is stupid and also did we mention how much it does not make sense? Don’t worry, the rest of it doesn’t make sense either, let’s keep going anyway.
In recent decades there was a steady rise in the employment-to-population ratio: For every 100 working-age Americans, there were eight more workers in 2000 than in 1960. The increase entirely reflects higher female participation in the labor force. Yet in the years since 2000, more than two-thirds of that increase in working-age population employed was erased.
Is this because these people were laid off and replaced by robots or people in China? No, dummy, it’s because they are happily sitting on their asses collection government assistance, duh!
Why are Americans working less? While there are a number of factors, the phenomenon is due mainly to a variety of public policies that have reduced the incentives to be employed. These policies include:
• Food stamps. Above all else, people work to eat. If the government provides food, then the imperative to work is severely reduced. Since the food-stamp program’s beginning in the 1960s, it has grown considerably, but especially so in the 21st century: There are over 30 million more Americans receiving food stamps today than in 2000.
This is an astute observation. People do need to work if they want to eat! Ergo de facto, if you do not let them eat, they will have to work, IT IS JUST THAT SIMPLE! But wait, there’s more!
• Pell grants. Paying people to go to college instead of to work is traditionally justified on the grounds that higher education builds “human capital” that is vital for the country’s economic future. But a study Christopher Denhart, Jonathan Robe and I did for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (that will be released soon) shows that nearly half of four-year college graduates today work in jobs that the Labor Department has determined do not require a college degree. For example, over one million “retail sales persons” and 115,000 “janitors and cleaners” are college graduates.
We actually probably believe him that half of four-year college graduates today work in jobs that the Labor Department has determined do not require a college degree. Is the solution here to, say, only let you get as much education as you can afford? Of course it is, if only someone else had thought of this before.
• Extended unemployment benefits. Since the 1930s, the unemployment-insurance system has been designed to lend a short-term, temporary helping hand to folks losing their jobs, allowing them some breathing room to look for new positions. Yet the traditional 26-week benefit has been continuously extended over the past four years—many persons out of work a year or more are still receiving benefits.
True enough, the economy isn’t growing very much. But if you pay people to stay at home, many will do so rather than seek employment or accept jobs where the pay doesn’t meet their expectations.
Yes, we keep telling you and telling you to stop collecting unemployment and go down to the job-handing-out-place! You know, that place? Where they hand out the jobs that pay a living wage? And have benefits? Yes, THAT place, duh. CLEARLY people are only unemployed because they have nothing better to do.
Should we stop being amazed at the impermeable nature of the GOP bubble? Yes, probably, but somehow it is still absolutely shocking.
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